More Childhoof memories - The Zoo

lilod(NoCal/8)April 14, 2011

Both my aunts, Sonja and Betty, had some sort of sponsor membership for the Zoo, there were a few perks, among them season passes. They took me along for visits, sometimes we were able to go behind the scenes and view new babies before their public display, I remember being able to touch a lion cub, exiting!

Sunday afternoons at the Zoo included live music at the coffee house, petit fours or torte. One dressed for that occasion, I always wore white shoes in summer, a hat and gloves were mandatory.

Just as the US used to have the Wild West shows with Indians and Cowboys, so did the Europeans have special displays of people from "exotic" locations at times. I do remember a Watusi Village, it was staged in a special, reserved area, and there were performances of their native music and dancing. I was quite small, and these long-boned, tall and very dark performers impressed me no end. One of the dancers came and spoke to the audience, he bent down and talked to me, held out his hand, palm up, and the pinkish palm contrasting with the dark skin for some reason terrified me and I, usually goody goody two shoes, made a scene. Aunts were embarrassed, I still hope I didn�t hurt the Watusi�s feelings.

The Frankfurt Zoo was known as one of the most modern Zoos in Europe, even in the thirties they already displayed some animals in natural habitats, elephants and giraffes and camels come to mind and all the assorted gazelles and their kin, it was pretty interesting.

One unforgettable Sunday we were wandering among the displayed beasts, everyone dressed well, Tanta Sonja, who was definitely the fashion-plate and big spender proudly wore her newest hat, a big-brimmed , expensive straw creation, decorated with poppies, corn-flowers and daisies, such as would grow in the fields. It was splendid! The Aunts were conversing with some other people, we were facing the enclosure holding an assortment of birds, such as storks and cranes, our back to the camel-pen. I looked up and saw an enormous head looming over the fence, tugged at Tante Sonja�s hand to get her attention. "Be quiet" I was told, "don�t interrupt grown ups talking" - at that moment the head lowered to Sonja�s hat, took one bite, removed the hat from Tante�s head and munched it! Funniest thing I ever saw! Tried to tell her, but grown-ups just don�t pay attention.

At another time we were by the elephant compound, feeding them peanuts - it was allowed - there was a man, all dressed in summer whites, sharp looking. He was teasing an elephant, holding out peanuts and then withdrawing his hand just when the beast was ready to take them. Thought it was really funny. Elephant went to their wallow, filled his trunk with muddy water and gave the man a shower, man didn�t think that was all that funny, we thought it was.

The Zoo has a special place in my memory, all these fun times with the Aunts�and the Zoo was the reason I met Duke, my husband. Sister Carola and I had been in the City and boarded a streetcar home. There were some American Soldiers, asking if someone spoke English, they were lost. Turns out they had just arrived in Frankfurt, had made arrangements to meet some of their buddies in the Zoo, were definitely on the wrong Streetcar, going in the wrong direction. Carola and I volunteered to take them back to the central hub, get them on the correct streetcar. We made a date for another meeting and the rest is history.

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Lilod,I enjoyed your story.I see that you have a Tante Sonja. It's a small world, our daughter's name is Sonja, she was named after,Sonja Henie - the figure skater. There is a Norwegian Queen named Sonja. Would you happen to know how your tante got her name?
Laughing at the behavior of the animals. Remember one time at the DC Zoo, where a fellow was teasing a llama and the llama spit all over the fellow. Interesting how you met your hubby.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 7:31PM
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Thank you for the glimpses of a time and a place that I have never visited or could visit.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 7:43PM
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gandle(4 NE)

Thanks, Lilo. Our childhoods were polar opposites. Mine was almost completely rural and a big city to me was anything over 1000 people. Lincoln NE even had streetcars where you could ride all day for a dime. Big thrill.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 9:07PM
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West Gardener, Tante Sonja's real name was Sophie, Sonja is the Russian version of Sophie, and of course, there was Sonja Henie, who was famous all over Europe. My Aunt thought that Sophie was "common".

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 9:27PM
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Thanks for the reply about the name, Sonja. I'll look into the Russian connection.
You are probably aware that "names" were(are) very important in Europe. I'm very curious about how you had a Tante named "Betty"?

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 7:00PM
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Betty was actually "Elisabeth".
You may get a charge out of the fact that Tante Sonja,, my Godmother, wanted mother to name me "Astrid" after the Belgian Crown-princess who was very popular and died in a tragic accident a la Diana. Mother put her foot down, I am glad, I just imagine how Astrid would be turn into a not so nice nick-name. I settle for Lieselotte aka Lilo.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 8:23PM
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Ah, I know the name Liselotte, it was a popular name in Norway. My dad wanted to name me Hjordis, after a Norse Mythological wife. I can't even imagine how to shorten it. You did good with your name.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 8:51PM
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Lilo---lovely, lovely story---especially the ending---well---I 'spose it was really the introduction of a whole new story!
--Just lovely and very sweet of you to share such special memories.

I can relate to the "--don't interrupt grown-ups" sentence; a standard for any inquisitive child of our younger days.

Next to that, I would cringe at having to shake the hand of a BOY when being introduced to new folks!
At that younger age, the only time I thought a boy was worth his salt was when he was wearing a cowboy outfit!

    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 12:43PM
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Zoo visits where always appreciated by me, not so much by my mother, because I always wanted to take critters home.
We had a season pass for the Frankfurt Zoo when we were stationed there and the kids, especially my younger one, would have preferred that we would live in there.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 4:09PM
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Could sit and listen to your stories all day.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 7:08PM
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